It’s not a parade you see every day—boats cruising down the street with holiday decorations.
On Dec. 20, the Oak Park Boat Regatta returned to the community for the 16th year and featured 20 boats and other vehicles dressed in their best Christmas and Hanukkah finery.
The annual Oak Park tradition began in 1999 with about a half-dozen boats and grew over the years to include a variety of makeshift floats all decked out with holiday lights and other glitz.
As in seasons past, spectators cheered and exchanged holiday greetings as the parade of unlikely entries made its way through the streets and in front of homes.
“This is really a fun community event for the participants as well as the viewers. There was a ton of people along all of the streets waiting for us. It was fabulous,” said Valerie Sherman, a retired school office administrator whose family helps organize the parade.
So what’s this thing about parading boats up and down the street?
“The ingenious people of Oak Park didn’t think they needed a lake to have a regatta,” Sherman said. “We were all boating and camping friends, and thought it would be a great idea to have a holiday parade,”
She said her husband, Scott, and two other Oak Park men, Wayne Blasman and Michael Krause, met when their children attended Brookside Elementary School and came up a way to combine their love for boating with their appreciation of the holidays.
The parade is always the Sunday before Christmas, rain or shine, and the whole community is invited to participate.
Last Sunday the procession began at Oak Park High School around sunset and made its way through streets where people of all ages waited with anticipation. Some families set up food tables and heaters to keep them warm while they watched the floats go by.
This year, there were three Santas. Two of them were on motorcycles and one was on a golf cart. The latter had to leave early because his cart battery ran low.
By consensus, the most impressive float was the Hogwarts Express, created by resident Ginger Pollack.